Bill Chapman: Why I am running again for Rockport Select Board
To my friends and voters in Rockport: I gave a lot of thought to this before deciding to run for another term. My decision rested on what I think of as an obligation to complete some of the tasks I have worked to set in motion over the last few years:
Surprisingly, my top motivation is to see the improvement of our infrastructure further along. When I first was elected, it was the habit of the select board to dictate to the town manager and public works director which roads were to be paved and which were to be left to fall apart. When a road is left to deteriorate, the cost of repair is much greater than if the deterioration is caught in time. As a result of watching pennies in one year, a few years later we were faced with spending dollars. About six years ago, we (the select board) changed course and have since been budgeting a dollar amount for road construction and have placed in the hands of the experts the responsibility do decide which roads to tackle. The result is we are gaining the upper hand and are having to replace fewer roads (and the ones that are being totally replaced are those requiring sub-surface work).
Additionally, two years ago, we recommended to the voters two infrastructure bonds to accomplish a few of the larger repairs which have longer term benefits: repairs on the Opera House, replacement of the Mill Street Bridge, and the rebuilding of the “high sidewalk” along Pascal Avenue to name three of the repairs. This took many hours of planning and debate, all I think were hours well spent.
And, just this spring, at our insistence, the town manager and his department heads brought forth the Capital Improvement Plan. This plan is an in-depth look at all the infrastructure in our town and will help future select boards in their budgeting process. In fact, it has already shown benefit in pointing out the expected cost related to our harbor float replacements which, while 10 or more years down the road, required money to be set aside starting now so sufficient funds won’t need to be raised at the last minute.
Another of the obligations I think I need to see to a conclusion is the replacement of the Rockport Public Library. I know this is a point of contention for many people in town, some wanting the library to go back onto the 1 Limerock Street site, some wanting a new building at the site of the former Rockport Elementary School (RES), some wanting the old building to be renovated and reoccupied and a few wanting the library to be shuttered and we join forces with either Camden or Rockland.
As I’ve said several times, I’ve gone back and forth on where the library should be located, but I’m adamantly opposed to closing the library and see no good coming from trying to reoccupy the old building. Both the 1 Limerock Street site and the RES site have many positive aspects as well as several negative ones. In the end, I have come to the conclusion that the 1 Limerock Street site is the best alternative, as I explained at the select board meeting when we selected that site.
However, that job is not complete, not by a wide margin. Subsequent to our decision, we invited Dick Reed and his associate in to talk about the process. We (and I) learned several things from that discussion; the most immediate is to take a survey of the town’s residents and voters.
To that end, a request for proposal has gone out and the results, which I expect we’ll see in late June or early July, will go a long way to either validating that decision or causing us to rethink the decision regarding the location. And, it will help us (and me) in making other key decisions regarding the size and cost, among other things, of the building which I hope can be bought to a vote by next June.
Another job that is not complete is what to do with our solid waste, a.k.a., what goes into the yellow bags we take to the transfer station.
As many will remember, I was a strong advocate for the MRC/FiberRite option. However, we did get a good deal, financially, to send our waste to ecomaine in Portland for the next 3 to 5 years. However, the long range solution is still to be decided and I hope that MRC/FiberRite will prove feasible as I think that is a better, more thorough solution along with increased recycling. As to recycling, as a member of the Mid Coast Solid Waste board of directors, I am actively working with that board to look at ways of increasing recycling, reuse and reduction in what goes into the waste stream as well as making the transfer station more efficient.
Another reason I am running again is that I enjoy working for the citizens of this town. The people we have had on the select board during my tenure have been wonderful people to work with and I’m sure whoever is elected on June 13 will continue to be a pleasure to work with and will have the best interests of the citizens of our town foremost in their (our) minds. Each brings a different perspective; each adds diversity of background and experience. Every meeting is an educational experience if you take the time to listen and learn which, I believe, leads to better decisions. I come to each and every meeting with an open mind.
Some people have remarked that being on the select board must be a thankless job. Far from it. I have met many wonderful people who have presented their thoughts and opinions in ways that are very informative. And, each person I have spoken with brings a perspective that I find helpful in forming the decisions.
You will see no lawn signs asking for your vote. We have a lovely town and I don’t want to despoil it. With that in mind, I ask for your vote on June 13.
William (Bill) Chapman lives in Rockport